10 November 2007

Jews of India: Food traditions

The Jewish Woman magazine always offers something of interest. The recent High Holiday issue featured "A whiff of cardamon, a dash of curry" and focused on the Jews of India, offering history as well as a trove of recipes.

It makes you wish your ancestors came from India, and covers the Bene Israel, the Bagdadi Jews and Cochin Jews, with recipes for curries, fish, desserts.

Sumptuous main dishes follow: lamb curry, chicken with green or red masala or chicken prepared tandoori-style (marinated in lemon or lime instead of yogurt, in accord with kashrut). Rice, embellished with fruit and nuts and aromatic with spices or coconut, accompanies the meal, along with crisp cucumber salads. For dessert, there is halwa; gelatin-like sweets made with chinagrass (agar); sweet-and-sour mangoes; and pineapples, pomegranates and other luscious fresh fruits.

Sweet treats continue during the holiday with kheer, rice pudding fragrant with cardamom and rosewater, enjoyed at teatime.

After Rosh Hashanah, women in India gathered to make sweet puris (saath padha, in Marathi). "As youngsters, we spent the whole day in the kitchen with my mother and aunts," Manglani recalls, "sitting together and rolling out the dough in a production line. Seven layers and butter between each to separate them." They folded the dough around a filling of either sweetened coconut or soft semolina pudding studded with raisins, pistachios and almonds, quickly deep-fried it, then rushed to deliver the pastries before Yom Kippur so they could be used to break the fast.

In addition to the spicy curries (red and green), aromatic rice and hot fish, there are recipes for the kheer rice pudding and seven-layered puri with sweet coconut filling.

Read the story and recipes here.

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